My Commonplace Book: January 2023

A selection of words and pictures to represent January’s reading:

commonplace book
a book into which notable extracts from other works are copied for personal use.


Her words themselves mattered. Words in a song, words in a poem, words caressed until at last they speak a truth, one soul to another, they all mattered. And maybe they matter still.

Music in the Dark by Sally Magnusson (2023)


Because she is a woman, and because she is poor, and because she is foreign, she cannot possibly have the same feelings or longings that any other person has. She cannot be motivated by love. In his mind, she must be driven by need, by greed, by want.

Prize Women by Caroline Lea (2023)


Mural of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty in Killarney, Ireland

As for me, in those days, I saw all political systems as more or less the same, forms of foolishness, the prattling of apes, designed to keep the lesser chimps down. This was a shameful foolishness of my own. I have come to see that neutrality is the most extremist stance of all; without it, no tyranny can flourish.

My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor (2023)


Someone whom he had loved past words was becoming a gentle shade, melting away from him month by month, day by day. Time devours everything, but each mortal believes that his own memory can enshrine immortality. He holds the dear image in his heart, but while he yet holds it the laurels fade, the image is dimmed.

Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell (1934)


“Detecting consists of asking the right questions,” replied Warner. “Just as a barrister proves his case by examination and cross-examination, so does the detective, and one of the most important people he has to examine is himself. Asking myself questions is my chief way of forming theories, and when I have formed one, I seek to demolish it with more questions.”

Death of an Author by ECR Lorac (1935)


Charles O’Brien, the Irish Giant

The Giant has learned this lesson: anything you can imagine, can exist.

The Giant, O’Brien by Hilary Mantel (1998)


I was candid in my reply since I could do nothing more. ‘I fell in love’.

‘But why did you allow it, with such a man? You should have turned away from him. A woman cannot choose whether she will love her husband or not.’

Which explained much about the Best marriage.

A Marriage of Fortune by Anne O’Brien (2023)


And suddenly she heard Thirza’s voice, as clear as a bell.

The truth’s not important, Vi. If people want to believe, then that’s just what they’ll do.

The Other Side of Mrs Wood by Lucy Barker (2023)


Power makes fools and puppets of those who lack it, turning us into poor, needy creatures, desperate to win favour from our master. And when we taste a little power ourselves, we place our dependants in the same position that we were in, as if to exact a vicarious revenge for past humiliations; and thus power works its slow corruption on those who do not have it as well as those who do.

The Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor (2023)


Chrysanthemum festival, Gifu, Japan

Let it be a lesson to us all that even good intentions can lead to great tragedy if not executed with the utmost care.

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo (1951)


‘Influence is easily won and lost, but power cannot be unseated. If I am dethroned tomorrow, my influence will wane quicker than the moon. Whereas that mountain over there has stood for many lifetimes and will still be standing for many more to come.’

Lady MacBethad by Isabelle Schuler (2023)


If his will ever weakened, and he found himself staring out of the window, lost in dreams of other places, his mother’s words came back to him, spoken on a hot day at the edge of his convalescent bed when he was just a boy: ‘There’s other ways to travel’.

She was right. He had books, and there was no barrier to the places he could visit in his own mind.

Homecoming by Kate Morton (2023)


If the entire history of the universe was explained within the time-frame of a single day, the Earth wouldn’t have been formed until late in the afternoon. The dinosaurs would have arrived a few minutes before midnight. And human beings would only have existed for the final two seconds.

The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder (2003)


Clytemnestra, by John Collier, 1882

But it is easy to turn to the weakest when you are racked with pain, to hurt those who can’t defend themselves when you are unable to hurt those who have hurt you. This is how the world works, raging gods forcing nymphs and humans into submission, heroes taking advantage of lesser men and women, kings and princes exploiting slaves.

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati (2023)


Thirty per cent of fifty thousand dollars! Jimmy jingled the few pieces of silver remaining in his pocket. Fifteen thousand dollars! And here he had been walking his legs off and starving in a vain attempt to earn a few paltry dollars honestly.

“There’s something wrong somewhere,” muttered Jimmy to himself.

The Efficiency Expert by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1921)


“Man is an unoriginal animal,” said Hercule Poirot.

“Women,” said Mrs Oliver, “are capable of infinite variation. I should never commit the same type of murder twice running.”

Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie (1936)


Favourite books read in January:

The Shadows of London and The Other Side of Mrs Wood

Authors read for the first time in January:

Lucy Barker, Isabelle Schuler, Costanza Casati, ECR Lorac, Edgar Rice Burroughs

Places visited in my January reading:

Canada, Scotland, Vatican City, England, Ireland, Norway, Japan, US, Australia, Greece


Reading notes: I read sixteen books in January, which is a great start to the year for me. About half of them were NetGalley books and for the first time in years I’m almost up to date with my NetGalley shelf – I only have five books left to read now (until I end up requesting more). I’ve also written most of the reviews but will wait to post them here until on or around the publication dates. The rest of this month’s reads included books for Nordic FINDS, Japanese Literature Month, Read Christie 2023 and the Classics Club Spin!

In February, Karen and Lizzy will be hosting ReadIndies, a month dedicated to books from indie publishers, so I hope to join in with that, as well as the next Read Christie 2023 choice.

How was your January? Do you have any plans for your February reading?

17 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: January 2023

  1. margaret21 says:

    And there was me feeling I’d done well reading 14! Like you,I’ve managed a good mix, including some NF .. oh, and one indie. My only plan is to chip away at the tottering TBR!

  2. Calmgrove says:

    An impressive range, Helen, with the usual pertinent quotes too! I daren’t commit fully to February memes but as it happens I do have one title that should count for #ReadIndies…

  3. jekc says:

    Looking forward to the remaining reviews on some very promising books. The Lucy Barker sounds good. Interesting to read your first ERB novel and it not be Tarzan or Sci-fi.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I was pleased to have read so many books in January but I think February will be less impressive as I haven’t managed to finish anything yet! NetGalley is a great way to find new books, but can end up being quite stressful.

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